WASHINGTON • United States investigators are probing whether former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn discussed expelling a Turkish dissident back to his country in exchange for millions of dollars, US media reported.
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is examining a meeting Mr Flynn had with senior Turkish officials weeks after Mr Donald Trump won the presidential race last year, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
The meeting allegedly discussed a secret payout of up to US$15 million dollars (S$20.4 million) if, once in office, Mr Flynn would engineer the deportation to Turkey of Fethullah Gulen, a political rival to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as help free Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab from prison.
NBC and WSJ both cited multiple people familiar with the probe by Mr Mueller. According to the sources, Mr Mueller recently interviewed witnesses over last December’s meeting between the Turkish officials and Mr Flynn at the swanky 21 Club in New York City.
“Under the alleged proposal, Mr Flynn and his son Michael Flynn Jr were to be paid as much as US$15 million for delivering Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government, according to people with knowledge of discussions Mr Flynn had with Turkish representatives,” WSJ said, adding that it is not clear how far the proposal went and that there was no sign that any payments were made.
Lawyers for Mr Flynn labelled the allegations “outrageous” and “false”.
According to the two reports, the discussions included details of how Mr Gulen, a Muslim cleric who lives in Pennsylvania, could be flown secretly by private jet to the isolated Turkish prison island of Imrali.
While his investigation is focused on Russian meddling, Mr Mueller has a broad mandate and has homed in on Mr Flynn’s activities as Mr Trump’s lead national security adviser. Those include frequent contacts with Russia’s then ambassador to Washington Sergei Kislyak and his alleged acceptance of payments to lobby for Turkey.
Mr Flynn became the White House national security adviser after Mr Trump took office on Jan 20. He was forced to resign three weeks later over his Russia contacts.